Day 8: Isla Santa Cruz
Today was our last day on the boat and with the rest of the gang. We still had two full days before we had to leave, perhaps we could squeeze in some diving? Before this though we had a visit to the Darwin center scheduled, we didn’t really know what to expect but it began with a pretty basic museum. There was supposed to be a video presentation but it was out of order so instead we walked around the room and read the information about the challenges facing various animals. Following this we visited the local celebrity, Lonesome George. He is about one hundred years old and the last of his subspecies, the Pinta Island tortoise but currently resides in captivity on Isla Santa Cruz as the rarest animal in the world with there being only one of him. He seemed happy enough plodding around his enclosure having been provided with two females of a different species to mate with although to date unsuccessfully. I don’t think he knows that he is the last of his kind and is living out the rest of his days with all of his needs met I suppose. There is a $10,000 reward for the person who can find a female giant Pinta Island tortoise so it might be worth checking under your bed when you get a chance.
|A Museum in the Darwin Centre|
|Lonesome George taking a stroll by his private pool|
|Flopped out Land Iguana|
On the walk back to Santa Cruz harbour we had time for our last group photograph and it was a good opportunity to see all the beautiful shops and interesting sights on the way. There was also the fish monger who was scratching his back with the same knife he was using to gut the fish with whilst a sea lion slept under the table and pelicans sat waiting for scraps behind him. We hugged and said our sad goodbyes to the rest of the cruise passengers as they headed back to the boat. They really were an amazing bunch and it was one of the saddest goodbyes we have had to make so far. On the bright side it was the first day of lobster season in the Galapagos and we were adamant to have it for dinner that evening. There was a pleasant surprise when the gang who had a few hours before they departed joined us for dinner on a really cool alfresco dining street as we tucked into our delicious lobster. We finished the evening with a couple of drinks in ‘On the Rocks’, a nice little bar close to the harbor with Raul and Fatima from Spain who had also departed the Sulidae before Kate and I walked along the peer spotting rays and a young white tip shark in the beautifully lit waters.
|Group photograph in Puerto Ayora|
|The fishmonger scratching his back with his knife, yes that is another sea lion|
|The Galapagos Lobster ready for some eating whilst Pelicans queue for scraps|
|The food didnt last long!|
|Rays in the water below the harbour pier|
On the 21st of September we spent our first full day of free time hanging out with Raul and Fatima. Together we took a boat taxi to Playa Aleman (German Beach) where we kept walking until we found a lovely lagoon surrounded by steep walls. We all went in for a swim and as we had our masks it was possible to see just how deep it went. There was a really serene stillness about the place and it wasn’t too cold either. It was like being in an aquarium with the water being so deep but the rocks either side making it feel as though you were in some sort of tunnel as large fish swam below. We hung out here for most of the day doing very little, just chatting and swimming… perfect. Having grabbed a taxi boat back to the harbour it was possible to have a photo shoot with an obliging pelican. Like most of the animals here he wasn’t too bothered by our presence. It really had been a great day.
|The route down to the lagoon|
|The serenely calm lagoon|
|Fatima, Raul and Kate after their swims|
|Kate and a pelican relaxing in the harbour at Puerto Ayora|
Our last full day on the Galapagos Islands meant a trip to the renowned Tortuga bay or tortoise bay, so named as in season they come at night to lay their eggs. It is a beautiful place full of wildlife. Although it was slightly overcast, the beach was vast and the water was amazingly still. We set up camp underneath some mangroves and went in for a snorkel. The water was very shallow but visibility was poor so we couldn’t see much at first. We headed towards some partially submerged mangroves and went quite far out until the water got deeper. It was here that Kate ducked under the water with her mask and came up gasping and blurted that we were swimming above a crew of white tipped sharks! If I hadn’t seen Lobo the sea lion tormenting them a couple of days before I would have been terrified, but I was now firmly in the knowledge that they were timid and gentle but it was still a little creepy. I dived down and amongst the silt of the water I could clearly see them chilling out on the sea floor, they scarpered when I got too close. It was really cool but strange to be swimming with sharks!
|Last iguana pile... *sniff*|
|The beautiful Tortuga Bay|
|The mangroves in the shallows|
After snorkelling we dried out on the beach and decided to have the packed lunch that we had brought with us. No sooner had we ruffled a crisp packet did we have finches galore descending upon us, some were brave enough to literally sit on us whilst we ate our food. They were all around, in the mangrove above us and on the beach and some even swooping to try to intercept food from our hands as it made its way to our mouths. It was very funny but we were good and didn’t purposefully feed them although they helped themselves to a few stray crumbs. They flew between our legs to get them so what could we do? It was a wonderful day spent chilling out and enjoying the stillness of the bay. On our return to Puerto Ayora we enjoyed a cocktail or two in a quiet outdoor bar as we nibbled on some delicious ceviche empanadas before hitting the hay.
|Finchy after our crumbs|
|Ambushed by finches as soon as we started to eat|
|Kate sipping on a last night cocktail|
Our flight back to Guayaquil the next day went smoothly. The Galapagos had been without a doubt a massive highlight of our trip. Whilst it was touristy, expensive and in the most part full to the brim with retired Americans, the actual pull factors of the amazing animals and feats of nature were still valid. I wouldn’t have changed anything about our trip, the experience was something that will stay with us forever and I hope to one day visit again to enjoy all the magical wonders that it has to offer.